Auditions from the other side

April 21, 2010

I recently went to Los Angeles to help cast for an upcoming project, in which I am already cast. I was technically there in my capacity as “host”, but due to my long relationship with the producers and my constant interaction with the talent, I was included in every casting discussion from start to finish. Here is what I can tell you that you, a fellow actor or performer, need to know,

Some of this stuff you know already, or at least you have no excuse not to know. Some is stuff your acting teachers have been telling you for years, and the rest is probably just common sense.

  • Look like your headshot. Seriously people, this is rule #1 and just common sense. If you don’t resemble your headshot then just don’t show up. We’ll never be able to remember who you are later when we’re trying to work out callbacks, and every time we do mention you it will be prefaced with “but they didn’t even look like their picture.” No excuses, just do it.
  • I know it’s an audition and you’re trying to get noticed, but just be yourself. If you’re putting on an act we can usually tell and we’ll just be distracted wondering who you really are. You need to perform and you need to stand out, but you don’t need to completely transform your personality.
  • The casting directors and producers are not evil; they just have a tough job and are really, really tired. Even if the people for whom you’re auditioning aren’t as awesome as we were, that doesn’t mean they’re jerks.  Well, maybe they are jerks, but it’s still not directed at you intentionally. They have way too many people to see and not enough time to sleep and eat throughout the day.
  • If you’re not cast, it’s not really about you. It’s weird to say “it’s not personal” when you are sent home but the truth is that you could actually be the best actor there, but there are so many other variables that the casting director and producer are considering that raw talent is only a small part.  I’m not just talking about looks either, although that is a big part of it. Charisma, personality, wit, and how you interact with those around you play a huge role beyond just how well you interpret the script or perform in the improv games. People like to work with people that they like.
  • Show up, and not just physically. Commit yourself to the audition constantly, or at least be aware of when you are being watched. You have no idea that the guy running the camera or signing people in isn’t actually one of the producers and founders of the production company. Is it really that hard to participate in a conversation, or stop texting for fifteen minutes while you wait to go in?
  • Also, be nice to everyone. Again, the person taking out the garbage could actually be on the production team and have a major voice in whether or not you get cast. The decisions are not being made solely on what goes in the casting room and in front of a camera.
  • Commit yourself to what you are asked to do in the audition. It may be something you’re horrible at, but what is being judged is not necessarily how well you do a task but how willing you are to just jump in and have fun.
  • Be persistent. I hesitate to mention this because it can go too far, but I’ll give you an example. One woman showed up late on the second day of auditions, and was turned away. We simply had too many people and had to leave the space on time. This woman found myself and a cameraman (who was also a producer) out back and asked if we could audition her. We really didn’t want to but we liked her look, so let her horn in on the next group of people (we had to resort to grouping them, there were just so many). Long story short, this woman is in the final cut of people selected to be sent to the client, and is everyone’s top pick to get the job. She could definitely have helped herself out by showing up earlier, but she asked us politely and directly if we could get her on camera. She did what she had to do to get the job.

That should about do it for now kids. One more little thing I’d like to add is something that I was talking about with my agent last week. While getting the job is definitely the goal, and the audition is a means to that end, how would it change your attitude if you thought of the audition as the end in itself? Or the callback? Most of the jobs that I and my wife have ever booked are the ones that we, quite frankly, just didn’t really care about one way or the other. We showed up, did the best we could do, and never gave it another thought. Your job as an actor is to act, and that actually means that auditions are an acting job the same as any other.

Above all else simply show up on time, look like your headshot, be yourself, and have fun. And don’t be an ass to the person taking out the garbage.

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